Holl Rides On: 2,000 Miles and Counting

Posted: July 10, 2009 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: July 10, 2009 at 8:23 am

By Rashad Mulla

Kiki Holl in the Colorado Rockies with a friendly dog. Photo courtesy of Kiki Holl

Kiki Holl in the Colorado Rockies with a friendly dog. Photo courtesy of Kiki Holl

Christine “Kiki” Holl, a web designer with the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, is currently in the middle of a summer-long bike tour across the country. She started from Yorktown, Va., on May 26 and is currently resting in the Denver area.

The Mason Gazette has been following Holl on her blog, kiki.bikesacrossthe.us, and checked in with her by phone to discuss her trip, biking and her cause.

You had to make a stop in the hospital. What happened?

I had to get a ride [to the hospital] from this tiny hamlet, called Arlington, Col. I asked a man if he could drive me to the nearest doctor (25 miles away in Orway, Col.), but they didn’t have the facilities to do all the tests I needed, so he offered to drive me 70 miles, to Pueblo, Col., where the nearest hospital was. When we got to the hospital, I spent five and a half hours in the emergency room with a viral infection.

Colorado is your sixth state, correct? How many miles have you traveled so far?

Yes. We have actually peddled 2,189 miles. We have traveled approximately 2,400 miles total, including the few times we had to get rides.

What is your biking cause?

Since 2000, my cause has been multiple sclerosis. I’ve raised somewhere around $450 for multiple sclerosis [this trip]. I do at least one tour per year. This will be my 13th.

How did you get into biking?

I’ve always been into outdoorsy stuff, and ever since I was little, I have always had a bike. When I lived in Germany, I had some free time, so my dad told me to buy a bike and take a ride. Sure enough, I bought a bike and went for a 15-day tour of northern Germany. That was the first thrill of bicycle touring I’ve ever felt. I’ve always wanted to bike across the country. It’s one of those things you check off your bucket list when you do.

What was the previous long bike ride?

Prior to this bike tour, the longest I’ve ever ridden my bike was 758 miles (1220km).

How long did you have to train and prepare to be ready for this ride?

It was a big process of planning ― since Oct. 2008 ― trying to get the preparation done. I had to decide which route I wanted to do, make a list of gear, prepare my bike with add-ons, and then buy everything. I have been progressively working on it ever since.

In terms of physical training, I rode a couple times outdoors in January and February, and I really started to focus in March. I started packing my bags and, to get the feel of riding, I would load them to up to 60 pounds. But I did probably 300 to 400 miles before the actual ride began.

How were you able to set up this trip?

We [Holl, and fellow riders Chris and George] met through the American Cycling Association web site. We all met in New York City in mid-March. As far as finding places to stay, we used couchsurfing.com and warmshowers.org. We call firehouses a lot, stop by churches and simply ask people if we can camp in their yards. We’ve really lucked out with a couple of the firehouses.

How do you keep up your web site, even when you’re halfway across the country?

The web site has been a lot more time consuming than I hoped for. I can write my blog entries offline and upload them later, but I still have to write every day or use a voice recorder to summarize the day before I forget. Otherwise, if I miss one day, it’s all downhill and I won’t keep up with the web site.

I easily spend three to four hours updating the site each week. I have a lot of friends and fellow cyclists following it. I have people two or three weeks ahead of me I’m following too.

What about the dog chases and snake count?

My boss actually showed me this web site of random statistics (Feltron Report). On the first day of the trip, I started counting the snakes. They were all over the place, so I began counting them for the fun of it.

One cyclist’s blog said Kentucky was horrible and full of dogs. When we got to Kentucky, we started getting chased by dogs literally right across the border.

Describe the typical dog chase.

Usually we’ll be biking along, and a dog will come from the right or left and go straight for the wheels. We have Halt dog repellant, but we are never prepared to use it, because we have to reach into our back pockets or handlebar bag. We found out that dogs don’t like water, so we squirt our water bottles in their faces and they back off.

Our worst dog chase (near Cassoday, Kansas) came during a night ride. I was the only one wearing a headlamp (the guys had bike lights) and three dogs came at us in the middle of the dark. I could see the dogs chase after us, so we just took off!

When do you expect to finish the ride?

End of August to mid-September.

Write to gazette at gazette@gmu.edu